Last season, the MSU coaching staff made the decision to move former cornerback-turned-safety Quinton Culberson to linebacker at the beginning of the season. While he performed well, it was still a situation where he learned on the go. Former fullback Carlton Rice was also moved to linebacker, although he spent most of his time on special teams as he learned the linebacker position in practice. However, both have performed well during training camp, as have several other 'backers.
"Quinton (Culberson) continues to learn the position," said Jones of his starting MIKE linebacker. "(Clarence) McDougal has had an excellent (training) camp. I feel real good about him. There is a big battle at the other (OLB) spot. (Redshirt freshman) Anthony Littlejohn has come back in great shape. And (last year starter) Gabe (O'Neal) is back out on the practice field and working (after being out due to an injury). Carlton (Rice), who is a very intelligent player, is also doing excellent. We are cutting back on his SAM reps, so that he can concentrate at MIKE while (backup) Brad Horton is out."
He's also been very impressed with his two true freshmen, (OLB) Jamar Chaney and (MIKE) Jimmy Miller. While both started off training camp a little rocky, he's noticed a definite improvement in their play the last few days.
"Jamar has gotten better the last couple of days," said Jones of the highly touted freshman. "I think he has finally learned what we expect practice-wise. I think he has also found out that he is going to have to compete and not just walk in here and have a spot.
"Jimmy Miller struggled a little bit early on after missing a couple of days due to getting dinged (concussion) in the head. But I saw some sparks of what we saw on film since he's gotten back, especially the last couple of practices. He's running behind either Brad (Horton) or Carlton (Rice), depending on who is healthy at the time."
However, despite their recent good play, he's not quite ready to say that the true freshmen will be penciled in as backups this season, although it appears, at the very least, they will play on the special teams.
"(Whether they will play this season) is up to Coach Croom," said Jones. "He watches their tapes, too. As of right now, we are going to play the best players. The biggest thing with Jamar and Jimmy is not only where they fit in at linebacker but also on special teams."
Overall, Jones has liked what he has seen during training camp. In fact, he's liked it so much that he feels he has two-deep at all three linebacker positions.
"The good thing is we have about 6 guys, seven when Brad Horton is healthy, who we can get some quality downs out of," he said. "I think we have a chance to be pretty good and a chance to have some depth, that's for sure."
And it's for sure those words are music to the ears of all Bulldog fans.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.